Arsenal: Title contenders or title pretenders?

Could this really be Arsenal’s year? This question is asked every year and the outcome is always the same. That seemed to be the case again this year after the Gunners were outclassed and outplayed against United back in January when they were beaten 3-1. Back then, plenty of critics, including me, had dismissed any chance of them winning the league.

However, Arsenal are not out of it. Suddenly, they find themselves level on points with Chelsea (Blues having played a game less) and just two behind Mnachester United. And Arsenal have by far the easiest run-in. I still (obviously) view United as favourites, but it is hard to see Arsenal dropping too many points now, especially because they no longer have to face any of the ‘big four’ this season. They prosper against the lesser teams, but falter against the better sides.

Looking at their remaining fixtures, only Manchester City and Tottenham may provide tough tests but their record against the latter is impressive, regardless of playing home or away. You’d also expect them to ease past the likes of Wigan and Hull. United’s run-in includes their noisy neighbours, Liverpool and Chelsea. However, and encouragingly so, the other six games I expect United to prevail.

What is also vital for Arsenal is keeping their players fit. Cesc Fabregas is the key to their title bid – and his latest setback could prove costly. He is set to miss the Porto game on Tuesday, but it is crucial that he stays fit for the rest of the season. The Spaniard is right up there with the best in the country, a quality player who the north London club can’t afford to lose but with the lack of silverware at the club in recent years, a move away from the club could still happen in the near future. He is Arsenal’s top goalscorer with 14, and has the most assists in the league with 15. Those are some devastating stats, as that combined is 29 goals. Wayne Rooney is second with 27 (23 goals and 4 assists).

Robin van Persie is due to return next month, and how important will that be for the club considering the inconsistencies with both Eduardo and Nicklas Bendtner. The latter is a good player, not great, as we saw on Saturday when he missed a host of chances against Burnley.

Even if they had all their players fit, could Arsenal really end their trophy-drought? Like we’ve seen year after year, the league title is too big an ask for the Gunners. In contrast, we’ve seen Manchester United overcome such pressure and there’s no team better nor is there a manager better for this type of situation. I believe the Gunners are serious contenders – rather than pretenders – but can they finally end their trophy-drought with a Premier League title this year?

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22 responses to “Arsenal: Title contenders or title pretenders?”

  1. Mark says :

    I amazed by all this attention to Arsenal by manure supporters.

    GNRs in closet you lot.

  2. ANTO says :

    in 3 to 5 years arsenal will be light years ahead of manure.ur club so much in debt its unreal.gunners are goin from strength to strength.COME ON ARSENAL COME ON ARSENAL

  3. wenger says :

    u are better placed to answer that question

  4. KING GOONER says :

    hmm-the fact that you’re evening mentioning us from your usual arrogant diddmisssal means only one thing as old red nose would say”IT’S SQUEAKY BUM TIME!” bring it on…….

  5. Yousif says :

    Thanks for the nice article… spot on about cesc… and i have 2 comments.. your final paragraph alludes to us having had all our players available over the last 3 years, which isn’t true.. had edu not gotten injured vs brum, things were on a different trajectory.. also, The question of whether ‘this could be arsenal’s year?’ is not asked EVERY year, just the last 2-3.. before that we were building this team, and prior to THAT, we had Man U in our pocket.. Not to begrudge you the last 3 years, which if nothing else have taught me new respect for Man U (& SAF in particular), but i had to just correct you there. The Arsenal isn’t gone away, we’ve just been manning up for the next decade. What have united been doing? wining trophies, enriching the galzers, getting into debt, right….. anyway, best of luck and thanks for the good read. – A Gooner.

    • The Gaffer says :

      Actually, to be clear when I said “Even if they had all their players fit”, I was trying to question if they could win if they did have players fit. I do realise that injuries have been a problem, maybe I wasn’t clear…

  6. Andrew says :

    Good article (I’m a gooner), nice to see a realistic perspective. I think it could come down to the last game with 3 teams in contention. Will be a fascinating run in!

  7. Cynch says :

    Arsenal fan here. Cesc has been massive, hasn’t he? While Rooney has been in fantastic form this season, Drogba is actually second in the Goal Making Charts with 19 goals and 9 assists.

  8. chris says :

    Arsenal look like the favourite to win the league now, considering their run-ins and their records against the weaker clubs i think Arsenal will surelly win the league this year

  9. Yousif says :

    ok, obviously Gunners are more addicted to newsnow than any other category of fans… LOL

    I guess it’s the overdue success we’re all waiting for… any minute now..

  10. MikeB says :

    I would suggest that if any of the top three are reliant on one player it is ManU and Rooney. I think the weekend proved that, but good to see a balanced article.
    Incidentally I wonder how Phil Thompson feels now, after his prediction about the Big Four becoming the Big Three? How can one man be so right and so wrong, all in the same sentence.

  11. PJ says :

    A good and very fair analysis I think. As you are, Arsenal fans are also surprised that we’re so close to you given how the season has gone up to now

    As a Gooner, I also think we’re a little way short of being favourites for the title, as you’ve pointed out, you have the match winners to win the tight games.

    I feel it will be very close, but our lack of points against Utd and Chelsea I fear will be our undoing. I think we’ll push hard, but will drop more points that both Utd and Chelsea…and probably where we don’t expect to drop points

    I’m happy we’re even being considered as contenders – to win it, we’re gonna have to rely on you guys falling down somewhere and someone other than Cesc making the difference (Sol Campbell could be a surprise masterstroke!)

    However, if we do win it, all this talk of lucky/undeserving Arsenal would be rubbish. Team with most points after 38 games are the most deserving…I only hope it is us

  12. TopGunPires says :

    Very fair article, refreshingly unbiased analysis.

    It’s impossible not to take Arsenal seriously now but as you note, key players need to be comfort fit, especially Cesc and Thomas Vermaelen.

    One thing that doesn’t get noted too much is the fact that Arsenal have not been reliant on any one player for goals. Whilst Cesc is top scorer the likes of Arshavin, Diaby, Nasri, Rosicky and even Vermaelen are capable of getting goals and that is ignoring the striker options.

    Personally I think it may come down to how teams progress in the Champions League. Neither Arsenal or Chelski are in an ideal situation after the first leg but either could benefit in the league should they get knocked out.

    Good luck for the rest of the season.

  13. BrianTheGooner says :

    Nice article…but year after year ??…come on !!…the last 2 or three maybe…Just like to point out one thing…if we lose Cesc for half a dozen games I am sure we can still have a good chance of winning the league…if you lot lose Rooney for the next six games…you can kiss goodbye to your Prem Crown !!!….

  14. ros says :

    if fab is out for a couple of weeks we have nasri and diaby in place we have whu and hull to play while his out that should not be a problem spuds and mancity are the hardest games .vp back next month we do have the squad and campbell is our rock we needed .Iam gunning for a Arsenal title not bothered about cl at the momment but i hope we win v porto

  15. Mr Scooch says :

    Wow! How civil is everyone being today, eh? Where’s all the namecalling and “Southern-Northern” rivalry gone?
    Saying that this was a good article. I, like many Gooners, am surprised we’re still in with a chance. I still don’t reckon we’ll win it, but we do have a very good chance.
    Anyway, normal service should now resume, you Northern Tw*t 😉

  16. charybdis1966 says :

    As I gooner I have to say this a fair article. While I agree the obvious tricky games will be Man Shitty & the Spuds I do have a little fear for Brum away, where McLeish’s hatchet men will be out to “get in our faces”, and that anti footballing messiah’s current team, Blackburn.

  17. Koketso says :

    Arsenal fans come here and talk about our dependence on rooney forgetting man uniteds REAL strength, last seasons record setting defence founded in the combination of ferdinand and vidic has been injured for much of the season. That said we have STILL only conceded the 2nd least goals of any defence in the league after villa, one can only imagine How much more effective our defense would have been had our starting back four played most of the season. Yes i do not deny rooney is in blistering form, but if you look at the need for balance, the less goals conceded the less one needs to score. With a fully fit back four +van der sar, united need not be reliant on rooney.any1 of our midfielders and berbaflop are capable of scoring and winning us low scoring games.rooney is in everyway balancing out what we have lost in defence for most of this season.rooney scores goals and lots of them, but how often is his name the ONLY one on the score sheet? He scores more thank god god because without the heart of our defence we concede more. Balance.

  18. Tommo says :

    Good articule. I’m a gooner and my misses is a Manc. Theirs some serious tension in our house I can tell you! 🙂

  19. The Gaffer says :

    Thanks for all the positive feedback Arsenal fans! Gosh, more United fans need to start using NewsNow…

  20. yolkie says :

    Arsenal are contenders – I make them favourites, but on account of a ridiculously easy run in by comparison to the others. Obviously it’s swings and roundabouts; everyone has to play each other twice, but Arsenal have been terribly fortunate in both the way the fixture list has panned out and the timing of injuries to other players.

    You could believe from what has been reported that Arsenal have suffered worse from injuries but at the side of Chelsea and ourselves they have had an easy time of it.

    Particularly with the added bonus of Wenger now using the press to vilify players and ensure no-one can even attempt to tackle his team; if they don’t win the title it will be incredible. This much was clear on Saturday when a Burnley player (think it was Danny Fox) went in fairly on Walcott and he had a proper tantrum.

    It’s a disgrace to football that Wenger can intentionally try to disgrace a players reputation, tell his own players he wants them to cheat, tells opposition players that they should expect his team to kick them if they “showboat” and then bleat on about protection of his own players.

    Having been outclassed – and I mean, outclassed – by us and Chelsea on all 4 meetings this season (yes, they did well for a spell of the first half at Old Trafford, largely down to an unfamiliar line up by us getting used to no Ronaldo or Tevez), you can see where they’re lacking.

    In Fabregas they have a good midfielder who, in a 4-3-3, has the ability to destroy smaller teams but in the last 3 or 4 years has failed to do anything of note in any game of any importance. In the 4 “top” games this season he too has been outplayed and outclassed, even humiliated. In Vermaelen they have a defender who they instantly hyped up to Vidic standards yet defensively (and again, particularly in the big games) they are as poor as they’ve been for a good few years, Vermaelen is part of that problem.

    Arsenal fans may applaud you on your good grace to acknowledge them as rivals but I would find it hard to believe – nay, make that, jaw droppingly staggering to believe that any Arsenal fan based on the head to heads can honestly say their team is anywhere near the level of Chelsea or United.

    It’s somewhat ironic then given how much the media have pandered to the myth (and that’s what it is) of this “beautiful” football Arsenal play that should they actually win the league this season we will have the worst champions of this league since Blackburn, worse than any of their three previous triumphs under Wenger.

    So in answer to the blog I would say yes; I would go further and say they are favourites. But just from the responses to this blog alone prepare for the total myopia, lack of grace and recognition of the incredible fortune they have been afforded to even still be in the race against two sides who have shown that they are significantly better.

  21. Serena says :

    Good read!
    Your points are fairly true. But today i think Gunners have shown their potential to win games even without the likes of fabregas. He is vital for our games but boy, we do have some talents to see in the near future! Nasri, Song, Diaby, Arshavin…actually everyone were just exceptional today!

    I’m cautiously excited but we can know what happens till the end eh?

    Serena

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